Two weeks ago, I attended the 2015 NPC Jay Cutler Baltimore Classic. Overjoyed, I watched the 33 competitors brought by the TEAM Warrior Within training staff, nine of whom I had personally helped with their training and contest prep, in addition to four other competitors I had competing that same weekend in other states.
Both the prejudging and the night show were long, each lasting over five hours. But for once, due to how many competitors we had in the show, I never found myself getting bored or counting the minutes until the conclusion of finals. Rather, I watched every group and division, engaged and excited to see our next competitor come out and, hopefully, dominate their class with ease.
Over the course of the day, I mingled amongst the vendors set up in the foyer. I watched the judges, the supplement companies, and the promoter of the event. In all, I was flooded with joy and pride to be a part of something so great, and to be heavily contributing to help create and build something so positive. I felt no rivalry or ego. I simply smiled, like a proud father watching his many children claim their prize, after weeks and months of grueling work and disciplined living, all in order to take to the stage and display a beauty that had never before achieved.
During the awards ceremony at night, it occurred to me how grateful I am to be a trainer/coach, doing what I’m doing for a living.
For anybody passionate about bodybuilding or physique competition, it’s very easy to want to make your living being a part of the industry. And there are numerous avenues for doing so, whether that’s selling memberships at a gym, working for a supplement company, helping to design suits for competitors, helping with hair and makeup, or helping with tanning, among others. All of those gigs are awesome and necessary, especially on show day.
But I get to hide behind the scenes. I get to hide in the trenches, designing the vision, laying down the blueprint, the foundation, that will allow this individual to do what is necessary to win on show day. I get to work on the mindset. I get to watch the growth of that person’s soul over the course of months, rather than just the end product. I get to watch them go from unsure, unconfident, scared, and nervous—to triumphant, proud, grinning ear to ear, when they get up there and know they have succeeded.
The trainers don’t get the accolades on show day. No, show day is about the competitor, and all the things that make it possible for there to be a competition in the first place: honoring the federation, the promoter, the sponsors; thanking the expediters, the judges, the tanning company and music person. The trainer hides in the back, just watching.
But he knows—he knows that the music man didn’t craft this physique, nor did the sponsors, the expeditors, the judges. None of those people had to stand by the side of the competitor when they walked through hell, on those nights when they were scared, run down, at their wit’s end, incapable of pushing any harder, incapable of digging deeper and finding that next gear. None of those people were the diagnosticians, committed to finding a way, no matter how improbable or impossible, to bring out the absolute best in that competitor.
The trainer hides in the back, and knows that he was the architect, the guide, the mastermind behind what gets displayed on game day. And there is a huge price to be paid for that—countless hours of emotional stress, of fighting with your client, of reassuring, talking them off the ledge, texting them every morning to make sure they’re hanging in there, to make sure they’re ready to go to war.
The price to be paid by the trainer is a huge emotional investment—watching your client on stage is like watching your own child, and all you can do is sit back helplessly, hoping for the best, hoping that your child doesn’t hurt, doesn’t fall, doesn’t fail; hoping that they come out the other end happier, stronger, better than when they went in.
But it’s a small price to pay, particularly when that child—that client—succeeds, achieves their best ever, presents something they didn’t think quite possible for all to see.
The trainer will never be the star of the show on game day. The competitors are the rightful stars. And after them, the “industry” gets thanked, as well it should be. But we’ll be hiding in the back, our hearts on edge and our fingers crossed, as goosebumps line our arms in anticipation—hoping for the best for our children.
-David A. Johnston
David Johnston is the founder and lead trainer of TEAM Warrior Within. You can also listen to him weekely on the GEARD Up podcast. ( GEARDUp.com ) David works with clients ranging from the everyday person just trying to lose weight and get healthy, local and national bodybuilding and physique competitors, to IFBB professional athletes.
David lives and breathes all things related to physique transformation, and has devoted nearly half of his life to passionately studying and educating himself to be the absolute best at what he does. His intensity in the gym is matched only by the passion he gives to his clients.